Terrifying Tales of Mortgage Loan Modifications Gone Wrong

The Boston Globe reported last year that, according to National Consumer Law Center data, about half of all mortgage loan modifications failed prior to the creation of the Home ­Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) in 2009. Now, approximately 80 percent of the mortgage modifications negotiated through HAMP still stand after one year.

The problem? Mortgage servicers often don’t want to participate in such mortgage relief programs in the first place, and when they do, it’s a months-long process that leaves borrowers running in circles. Just ask the homeowners who told us their horror stories of mortgage loan modifications gone wrong.

Mortgage Modification Programs Fall Short

While the data appears promising on the surface, mortgage relief programs have fallen far short of projections for how many homeowners they could help.

President Obama projected that government-backed mortgage loan modification program HAMP would help approximately four million struggling borrowers keep their  homes. However, The Huffington Post reported last September than not only has HAMP failed to help even close to this many people, over one million participants have been bounced from the program since 2009.

According to the Treasury Department, many of these failed modifications are the result of missing documentation, but The Huffington Post reported that they’ve received stories of banks losing homeowners’ documents in droves.

Unfortunately, after convincing borrowers to take on mortgage loans they couldn’t realistically afford, mortgage servicers are now forcing borrowers to jump through hoops in an attempt to modify these loans to affordable terms.

In many cases, these are responsible, well-educated people who unfortunately fell victim to the mortgage crisis, and now they’re left on their own to pick up the pieces or lose their homes to foreclosure.

Brenda C.

Brenda C. is just one of the many victims of mortgage loan modifications gone wrong. After suffering job losses and an expensive medical emergency in the midst of a down economy, she and her husband filed for bankruptcy. They managed to hold onto their home, but needed a mortgage loan modification to keep it. Unfortunately, because their home had substantial equity, they couldn’t find a program that would accept them.

At the advice of her loan representative, Brenda stopped making mortgage payments in order to finally qualify for a modification program. However, after agreeing to a trial period of reduced payments, the lender stopped answering the phone.

“It just drug on for months and months past the three-month trial,” Brenda said. “I could not get anything in writing from the mortgage company, and our loan rep would not call us.”

Prior to withholding mortgage payments in order to qualify for a mortgage loan modification, Brenda and her husband were barely scraping by — but still current on their payments. They stopped buying new clothes, haircuts, even Christmas presents. “Our church even helped us,” Brenda said. That was in 2011.

Now, however, after two years and several attempts to have their modification officially instated, they are thousands of dollars behind on the loan and facing foreclosure.

Terri H.

Terri H. experienced a similar ordeal, when a series of unfortunate events led her income to fall and she needed a mortgage loan modification to keep current on her loan.

However, while attempting to have her mortgage modified, a single piece of documentation threw a wrench in the whole process.

“I knew I had sent it in, and when I called, my ‘customer service’ rep told me not to worry, everything was in and to ignore the notice I got,” Terri said. “Then I got a second notice saying I had 15 days. I called for several days, leaving messages on my rep’s voicemail, [calling] his supervisor and even his supervisor’s supervisor, and nobody called me back.”

Soon after, Terri received a notice that her modification had been denied due to the missing document and she could apply the following year.

She began the process all over again in January. “Every week it’s something different they need — stupid stuff like a date reformatted on a P&L statement. Crazy!”

Why Is Mortgage Loan Modification So Difficult?

You would think it’s financially advantageous for both borrowers and lenders to work out a modification deal, rather than lose thousands of dollars in foreclosure. However, according to Benjamin Yrungaray, an attorney with De Novo Law Firm who specializes in loan modifications, that’s not always the case.

“The bank rarely has a personal, financial stake in their loans and so it is not always in their best interest to avoid foreclosure,” Yrungaray said. When deciding whether to modify a loan or allow the borrower default, “the bank will likely perform a calculation to determine Net Present Value (NPV) of the loan versus foreclosure. If foreclosure generates more value, then the bank will likely go in that direction,” Yrungaray said.

In fact, Yrungaray said that lenders have been reluctant to help borrowers because they were not prepared for a market collapse, but now that they’re realizing home prices aren’t going to return to the highs we saw pre-crisis, they’ve begun handling the modification process better.

So what is a struggling homeowner to do? Yrungaray advised “To get results, it is important that you consistently follow up with your lender, work with your assigned representative and don’t be afraid to ask for their manager.” And in order to avoid a common mistake mortgage loan modification applicants often make: “Be honest with the bank,” which means ensure the documentation you provide (i.e. bank statements) matches up with your claims of hardship.

However, just because you follow the rules doesn’t mean your mortgage servicer will.

“I have bought and sold several homes,” Brenda said. “I have an MBA. We have owned an international business … I cannot imagine how people who don’t know how to navigate this are doing it. It is scary and overwhelming.”

Photo credit: Gonzo Carles

  • albert paccio

    Just finally refi’ed after 18 months of bank b.s — might as well blame Obama for that to. Its easier to do that than actually try to figure out the nonsense banks spew out as to causality of delays, or rejections.

    • Fewl

      It’s Obamacare’s fault! Also, I think the liberal media had somethin’ to do with it, too.

  • Lynn Miller Adams

    I was injured on my job. I called BofA the next day. I applied for a modification. I called 109 times in 18 months. I was told the modification was in review. I receive a 3rd party notification stating my house will be sold on the court house steps in 2 weeks. I called BofA and asked what was going on. I was told that BofA did not accept partial payments; I replied I had not made any partial payments; BoA said for the past 3 months you have made partial payments; I said that is not possible; BofA said you have only paid $756.00 each month; I said that is my payment amount; BofA said no it is not your monthly payment amount is $1147.96; I said I have not received any notification from you (BofA) indicating any increase in my payment amount; BofA said during your modification request we found a deficiency in your escrow account and had to increase your payment amount to bring the escrow account current; I said why didn’t you notify me of the increase I have paid my regular payment every month -now I am in foreclosure and my house will be sold in 2 weeks;; BofA said well you could just pay us $30,456.73 to bring your account and escrow current. I paid $14,000.00 to stop the foreclosure; I told BofA I would agree to a short sale because I needed a modification when my payment was $756.00 per month so it would be impossible for me to pay $1147.96 per month; BofA agreed to the short sale-assigned a realtor to me-and I complied with everything they asked me to do; 5 weeks later I receive a letter stating that the servicing of my loan had been sold to Ocwen Home Loans- I asked if Ocwen was going to honor the short sale agreement and was told yes; 30 days later I received a letter stating that Ocwen wanted $51,000.00 to reinstate my loan and bring my account current;;;I told them I could not pay $51,000.00–what happened to the short sale agreement–they said they could not honor it but they would agree to set up a new short sale agreement–I said ok;;;the realtor called and gave me a list of requirements I must meet -I complied –she said that her office was in close contact with Ocwen and that they called them every 3 days-I said ok——then the realtor called and said to move every thing out of the house because we had a closing date for the sale in 3 days—I rented 3 storage units and moved everything out-we went to the closing and the attorney told us that the investor had changed his mind–we go home to an empty house–when we spoke to the realtor she said oh someone should have called you but don’t worry I have a lot of interested investors-I said ok——3 weeks later the realtor called and said I am so sorry but your house was sold on the court house steps 3 days ago and you have to vacate. Now I am homeless.

    • Cynicor


    • The Truth

      You are homeless because you didn’t plan ahead for an emergency event. Everyone needs a financial contingency plan.